Estate agents duty of care to tenants?

by Readers Question

7:50 AM, 27th January 2014
About 7 years ago

Estate agents duty of care to tenants?

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Estate agents duty of care to tenants?

My partner and I began renting a house through an estate agent last year. We paid our month upfront, our deposit and our admin fee to the estate agent to draw up the tenancy agreement. We have since received letters from the landlords bank and their debt collection company stating that the landlord has defaulted on his payments.

When we contacted our estate agents about this they said it was all in hand and had been resolved. We have since received an order for eviction and a letter stating the landlord did not have permission to let the property with his mortgage and any tenancy agreement was in fact void.

So my question is, do the estate agents we went through owe us a duty of care to have checked that the landlord had permission to let? Estate agents duty of care to tenants?

Also would we be able to retrieve our admin fee back or claim any damages off them?

Thanks

Sammi


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Mark Alexander

8:01 AM, 27th January 2014
About 7 years ago

Hi Sammi

It's a horrible position that you are in but fortunately is doesn't happen too often.

The estate agent is not responsible for checking that a landlord has consent to let. The agent acts for the landlord, not the tenant. Therefore, the Estate Agent does not have a duty of care towards you but the landlord does.

Given that your landlord has not been making mortgage payments that would seem to suggest that your landlord is in a tight financial predicament. You may well have a right to sue your landlord but if he/she has no money there seems to be little point.

When is your tenancy due to expire naturally?

The reason I ask is that if you have more that a month to go, if I was in your position I would seriously consider "withholding rent" pending a compensation claim. Do speak to a solicitor about this though.

Whilst the agent doesn't legally owe you a duty of care they will have a reputation to keep. Clearly they are aware of what is going on and they are unlikely to be too impressed with this landlord either. Remember, you are going to need them to give you a good reference. They may just have another property to consider for you too and that being the case they may also be able to help you with the fees since they've already referenced you. Talk to them about your plans and your dilemma and ask for their help. Let them know that if they are helpful you will write a good reference for them on http://www.allagents.co.uk/

The other think you could do is to contact the mortgage company to see whether they would consider keeping you on as a tenant and selling the property tenanted to another landlord. It's a long shot but it could be worth giving it a go.

Whatever happens, I wish you luck.
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Richard Kent

9:12 AM, 27th January 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "27/01/2014 - 08:01":

Let us make the scenario more interesting. I will arrive at a point at the end so please bear with me....

For example what if the landlord is currently going though a divorce and about to loose his access to his children.

Or a close member of his family has just died.

Or that the landlord has several West Brom mortgages and can not meet the new hiked repayments and is being buried under a mountain of financial pressure and stress.

These are not implausible scenarios right?

Now he is in a position of feeling distraught, under immense stress and to such a degree where he is unable to work. Now being self employed he then has very little income and unable to pay the mortgage on his let property. His family home is also being repossessed!...............etc...etc

The point I'm making here is isn't it interesting how quickly a tenant is considering suing someone, the letting agent first and possibly the landlord next, without actually knowing the circumstances behind the repossession.

My advice to this tenant is to start getting ready to move and put all your focus into getting on with your life.

Does this sound too harsh? .............Please comment.

Samantha Clark

9:21 AM, 27th January 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Richard Kent " at "27/01/2014 - 09:12":

If you read my post then you will see that I make no mention of suing the landlord. I wanted to know if the estate agents were liable for any negligence. You see here are my circumstances..... A toddler and a newborn baby, a partner who works full time and has no holidays left to assist with a move as he took all his holidays on top of his maternity leave to greet our new arrival, me suffering PND and this adding to the stress. Now I return to work in 3weeks so a move with 2small children and 2 full time adults isn't exactly ideal. The landlord who we know, his situation is that he bought the house with his wife, he then left her for his mistress so they are going through a messy divorce. Now his life is no concern to me, moving my 2 small children again is what concerns me and I would like as much back from my estate agent as possible so I can put the deposit down for our next house and not loose out on any money as we are almost ready for a mortgage and every little helps.

ian

9:31 AM, 27th January 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Richard Kent " at "27/01/2014 - 09:12":

Makes me wonder if you're the Landlord in question LOL

Mark Alexander

9:32 AM, 27th January 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Richard Kent " at "27/01/2014 - 09:12":

Hi Richard

Now let's put the shoe on the other foot.

Let's assume the tenants are a respectable working family with three children and have recently moved to their dream property. They have put all of their savings into the move, purchased new furniture to match their new home which they were told they could rent for several years providing they paid their rent and respected their property and neighbours. They paid removal costs, deposit, referencing fees etc. and most of the furniture to match the property was purchased on interest free credit. They have no more money to repeat the exercise and are also distraught at this news.

There are two sides to every story. I am a landlord as you know and I will always stand up for the rights of a good landlord.

However, part of being a good landlord is to recognise that bad landlords also exist and I'm not just talking about the ones who rent mouldy old death-traps and collect rents and evict tenants with baseball bats. People who make false promises to tenants and don't have permission to let are not good landlords either.

I don't know Sammi or her story, I am merely making the point in order to play devils advocate with you as requested.
.

Richard Kent

9:33 AM, 27th January 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "ian " at "27/01/2014 - 09:31":

LOL 🙂

Mark Alexander

9:38 AM, 27th January 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Samantha Clark" at "27/01/2014 - 09:21":

The thread appears a little truncated Sammi because I had not spotted your first post in the moderation queue before I had added my comments.

With the benefit of your response I now feel that my other responses were perfectly justifiable.

I wish you well 🙂
.

Richard Kent

9:39 AM, 27th January 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "27/01/2014 - 09:32":

🙂

Mark,
I appreciate your words of comfort to this tenant and I feel tempted to do the same.

But let's say this landlord has an excellent record but now finds himself in one of the possible scenarios I have suggested. All beyond his control.

In other words, sometimes it no ones fault.

These things happen.

Let us remember. An Assured Shorthold Tenancy is not a house for life.

ian

9:41 AM, 27th January 2014
About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Samantha Clark" at "27/01/2014 - 09:21":

Samantha
Did your deposit get protected ?

Samantha Clark

9:48 AM, 27th January 2014
About 7 years ago

Yes my deposit is protected but I am more interested in the admin fees put in place by the estate agent. We payed £125 each to originally get the tenancy then an additional £125 each to e tend the tenancy to a 2year tenancy. So I've paid £500 to be told that it's all invalid and surely there must be some way to get that back from the estate agents. Also I did decorate and buy furniture for the property as we intended to buy from the landlord

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